John Addington Symonds

1840 (Bristol, England) – 1893 (Rome)

Symonds had a long correspondence with and wrote about Whitman, the connection ending abruptly when he eulogised over the more homoerotic aspects of Whitman’s writings (Whitman countering with a story about fathering several illegitimate children). Symonds’ friend Wilde claimed Whitman had been more open with him about his sexuality than Symonds had in fact been. Stevenson met Symonds in Switzerland, both convalescing from tuberculosis. Symonds collaborated with Ellis on a pioneering investigation into homosexuality, but died before it was published (his executors pleaded for his name to be removed).

John Addington Symonds knew…

Theodor Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno

1903 (Frankfurt am Main) – 1969 (Visp, Switzerland)

He met his most important future colleagues, Horkheimer and Benjamin, while still a student; Benjamin especially becoming a close friend. Horkheimer helped him get a job in the US, where he worked (and clashed) with Lazarsfeld. Habermas became Adorno’s post-war student and then colleague. Berg (with whom he studied composition) and Schoenberg (a strong influence) were both friends, as were Brecht, Goodman, Lang and Scholem. He collaborated on a book about film music with Eisler, brought his musical knowledge to his friend Mann’s ‘Doctor Faustus’, and wrote to Beckett disapproving bare-breasted student disruption.

Theodor Adorno knew…

Walter Benjamin

1892 (Berlin) – 1940 (Portbou, Spain)

The ideas of Benjamin’s close friends Adorno, Brecht and Scholem all informed his own work. He met Rilke and Scholem while studying in Munich, and Brecht (who sheltered him twice in Denmark) through a lover, Brecht’s secretary. He worked closely with Adorno, latterly by correspondence, and befriended Lukács, a strong influence. Hofmannsthal published an essay of Benjamin’s. Arendt, Weill and Hesse, exiles from Nazism, were all met in Paris: also Bataille and Klossowski. Perse saved him from a second wartime internment. Horkheimer arranged for him to enter the U.S., but thwarted in his escape from France, he killed himself.

Walter Benjamin knew…